Dynamic Assessment is a method of assessment which uses a “test-teach-retest” model. The emphasis is on the individual’s ability to acquire the skills/knowledge being tested after being exposed to instruction.
Dynamic assessment can be done in a structured, explicit way as in a fast mapping task, or in a less intentional way. For example, the evaluator might refer to an unknown object during pretend play and later notice that the child had picked up the new word and begun using it, such as in this example:
Dynamic assessment is often viewed as a contrast to static assessment, in which the focus is on skills and knowledge gained prior to the evaluation. In static assessment, the examiner presents the test, notes errors during that session and determines areas of deficit and strength. Commercially available language tests such as the Preschool Language Scale- 5th edition (PLS-5) or the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-4th edition (CELF-4) are examples of static assessment. These tests evaluate a child’s ability to display a set list of behaviors. When the child fails to do so, depending on how many behaviors weren’t observed, he or she is considered to have a language impairment.
Static assessment tests are problematic because they assume that all children have had the same experiences and opportunities prior to evaluation when this is clearly not the case. Additionally, the skills evaluated by these tests are often more associated with culture or socioeconomic status, such as vocabulary, rather than a true language impairment.
Many evaluators initially feel uncomfortable with dynamic assessment because it does not produce a score like commercially available tests, even though commercially available tests may provide invalid and inaccurate scores. For this reason, it is necessary for all evaluators to develop clinical judgment. An evaluator needs to be able to judge whether a child is typically developing or disordered and if he or she is disordered they must be able to quantify the severity of the disorder (i.e. mild, moderate, severe). To do this, an evaluator must do the dynamic assessment task with typically developing children from the same speech community. Only in this way can the evaluator begin to know the range of typical performance for this dynamic assessment task and then be able to discern when a child is outside of that range, possibly indicating the presence of a disorder.